There are many long-distance trails in The Netherlands. The Pieterpad, a 500-kilometer hike from north to south, is the most famous. This is the ultimate guide.
Good to know before you read this article full of tips for the Pieterpad trail: I thru-hiked the Pieterpad in one go in the summer of 2020 (with a tent). In addition to the Pieterpad, I have hiked many other long-distance walks, such as parts of the Camino in Spain, the Fishermen’s Trail in Portugal, and the Jordan Trail in Jordan. I also hiked more than 700 kilometers of the Pacific Crest Trail and the Arizona Trail (1300 kilometers) in the United States. On this website, I share my tips as an experienced hiker, not only practical tips but also what it is like to walk alone as a woman.
About the Pieterpad: origin & route
The Pieterpad is the most famous long-distance hike in The Netherlands. Every single day, there are people that hike this trail. The Pieterpad has a length of 500 kilometers (about 310 miles). The exact length of the Pieterpad changes quite often because routes are shifted or diverted.
Origin of the Pieterpad
The Pieterpad was opened in 1983 and was conceived by friends Toos Goorhuis-Tjalsma and Bertje Jens. They were hiking friends and mainly hiked abroad because there were no long-distance hiking trails in the Netherlands.
Bertje lived in Groningen in the north of the country and Toos in Tilburg in the south. Together they decided to go for a hike in The Netherlands. They planned a route from Groningen to Tilburg and as they walked they thought it would be more fun to walk from Pieterburen in the north of Groningen to the Sint-Pietersberg in the south of the Netherlands. This is how the Pieterpad was created.
How do you start with the Pieterpad?
Just put one foot in front of the other. Just kidding, but I do understand that many people have this question. How do you start with the Pieterpad? Where do you start? Do you have to hike all the sections in order? Do you hike separate sections or would you rather go for a thru-hike? And do you hike with your partner, with a group of friends or do you want to hike the Pieterpad alone?
I wrote this article filled with practical tips after my hike on the Pieterpad in the summer of 2020. I have also re-walked various individual stages in the years that followed. The Pieterpad trail continues to attract, it’s such a wonderful way to explore the varied landscapes in The Netherlands!
Over the years I have regularly added information and now this article is a complete reference work that you can use if you plan on hiking the Pieterpad trail. If you miss information or have a specific question, please leave a message at the bottom of this article. Enjoy reading and happy trails!
The Pieterpad starts in Pieterburen, a small village in the north of the province of Groningen. From here you walk to the south, the endpoint is the Sint-Pietersberg in Maastricht. The trail has 26 sections. When you’re hiking the Pieterpad, you walk on both paved and unpaved paths and you see the Dutch landscape continuously changing.
The Groninger Landscape consists of many green meadows, you will see many mills and churches and you walk along various canals. In Drenthe, the next province, you walk past meadows full of cows, through forests, and over the heath. You also hike through Drentsche Aa National Park. Of course, you will also see several large dolmens (remains of prehistoric burial chambers) in Drenthe. That is what this province is famous for.
In the province of Overijssel, the landscape changes again and you’ll mainly walk through the woods and in a hilly landscape with heather. Here too you walk through a national park: the Sallandse Heuvelrug. In the province of Gelderland, you walk right through an area called the Achterhoek with a lot of farmland. You’ll also see many castles. After a bit through Germany, you suddenly walk in a hilly landscape before you walk into the last province of Limburg.
In Limburg, you follow the river Maas (and you walk a couple of kilometers through the province of North Brabant). From the city of Sittard, the hilly landscape starts again and before you know it you are in Maastricht, the endpoint of the trail.
Good to know: most people walk from north to south, but you can of course also just walk the Pieterpad from south to north. In that case, you’ll start in Maastricht and end in Pieterburen.
When is the best time to hike the Pieterpad?
You can hike the Pieterpad all year round, but the best time to hike the Pieterpad is between May and October in my experience.
Please note that it is much busier in the summer months than in the winter months. More facilities are also open along the path in the summer. Campsites are usually closed in winter. Sometimes restaurants and cafes are closed as well during the winter months.
In addition, the trail is busier on weekends than during the week, many people use the weekends to walk individual stages.
The Pieterpad is divided into 26 different sections or stages. Each stage has a length between 12 and 24 kilometers. The start and end of a stage are generally easily accessible by public transportion, often there is a train station or a bus stop. Check Google Maps or 9292 for the route from your place to the starting point (or ending point) of a section.
Of course, you are not obliged to stick to the sections exactly. I wanted to thru-hike the Pieterpad and because of that I quickly walked more than 25 kilometers a day. That’s why I often walked one and a half or two sections a day. In the end, this also worked out better with the campsites where I wanted to spend the night.
Of course, you can always choose to shorten the sections and walk a shorter distance. So, like always hike your own hike. Nothing is wrong, do what you find most comfortable.
The most beautiful sections of the Pieterpad
If you ask ten Pieterpad hikers: what are your favorite Pieterpad sections? you will get ten different answers. If I can name a top three myself, these were my favorite Pieterpad sections:
Zuidlaren – Rolde (section 4)
After Zuidlaren you walk into Drentsche Aa National Park. Most of the section is on unpaved paths, through the forest, and the heather. Especially the Gasterse Duinen (with a large dolmen) and the enormous Ballooërveld are wonderful places to see. On warm summer days, start as early as possible, as there is little shade in this section.
Ommen – Hellendoorn (section 10)
Section 10 from Ommen to Hellendoorn is very hilly and because of that, it is one of my favorites. Forest, hills, and heather alternate and you regularly climb to beautiful viewpoints, for example on the Besthmenerberg and the Archemerberg.
The following section, 11, is also very beautiful because then you walk straight through National Park Sallandse Heuvelrug.
Sittard – Strabeek (section 25)
I love walking through a hilly landscape and South Limburg is the best place for that in The Netherlands. Immediately after Sittard, you walk up a hill, and from then on you walk through a beautiful rolling landscape. Along the way, you walk through beautiful villages, such as the hamlet of Terstraten.
How do you navigate the Pieterpad? You can use the Pieterpad guidebooks, but there are additional ways to navigate on the Pieterpad.
Pieterpad guide books
NIVON, the Dutch branch of the International Friends of Nature (NFI), has various handy guides for the Long Distance Hiking Trails (also known as LAWs) in the Netherlands. There are two booklets on the market about the Pieterpad, part 1 (from Pieterburen to Vorden) and part 2 (from Vorden to Maastricht).
Unfortunately, there is no English translation of the Pieterpad guidebooks, they are only available in Dutch. However, the books also contain detailed maps, which are very useful. If you hike the Pieterpad, you will see several people carrying these guidebooks.
Do you really need the Pieterpad guidebooks? The advantage is that the Pieterpad route is described in detail (in Dutch) and there are clear route maps in the guidebooks. It also lists the highlights for each section. You learn a lot about the landscape and the history of the place you walk through.
The disadvantage of the Pieterpad booklets is that they are quite heavy and that the route is not always correct because there are sometimes detours. So if you really need the Pieterpad guidebooks, is up to you.
Whether you use them while hiking or not, it’s always good to buy them anyway. This is how you support the Pieterpad Foundation and this foundation ensures that the paths are easily accessible and maintained. They also regularly check whether the route is still correct and they provide a detour if necessary.
Follow the markers
The second way to navigate on the Pieterpad trail is by following the markers. Pieterpad is generally very well-marked. This is a red and white marking and you see it regularly. Always follow the trail with the red and white flag. Sometimes there is a red and white arrow that points in the right direction. And every now and then you’ll see a cross, which means you should not go that way.
Please note: the same red-white marking is used for several long-distance paths in the Netherlands. Usually, it will say which path it is on, but if in doubt, always consult the booklet or the GPS to avoid going the wrong way.
You can also use GPS to hike the trail. You can download a gpx file per stage from the Pieterpad website (only in Dutch, but you can check the names of the towns) and open it on your phone with a GPS viewer. I myself used the GPS viewer app for this, but you can of course also use another such as ViewRanger, Gaia, or Topo.
Pieterpad: Where to stay?
Do you want to walk several stages in a row and sleep on (or near) the Pieterpad? There are a few options for staying overnight.
Spending the night in hotels and B&Bs
During almost every section you pass through several villages where you can spend the night. Often there are B&Bs and sometimes there are also hotels. You can easily book a room through Booking.com.
I myself booked two great overnight stays this way:
- Hotel-Restaurant Wanders in Elten, Germany (halfway through section 16). Nice (basic) hotel in a lovely town with several restaurants and supermarkets. It is about 1.5 kilometers from the Pieterpad.
- B&B Op de Burg in Venlo (end point section 21 and starting point of section 22). Comfortable B&B with friendly owners. In the morning you will be served a delicious breakfast. The B&B is only a two-minute walk from the Pieterpad.
Stay at “Vrienden op de fiets” (Friends on bikes)
As a walker or cyclist, you can spend the night at people’s homes via Vrienden op de fiets. You can become a member for €8 per year (if you do not live in The Netherlands, a membership costs €10 per year). If you are a member, you can search for places to stay on the website. An overnight stay via this organisation costs €25 and breakfast is usually included.
Of course, you can also bring a tent on your hike and go camping. Wild camping is (unfortunately) not allowed in the Netherlands, but luckily there are plenty of campsites near the Pieterpad. You can find campgrounds by looking in the Pieterpad guidebook, on the Pieterpad website, or on Google Maps by searching for “camping”.
I mainly camped when I hiked the Pieterpad and these were my favorite campsites:
- Minicamping Pieterom in Sleen (end point of section 6). Small and cozy, the chickens walk freely between the tents.
- Camping Twilhaar is a natural camping site between Haarle and Nijverdal (section 11) and is located about 1 kilometer from the Pieterpad in the woods.
- Camping de Slangenburg near Doetinchem (section 15). 55+ campground with good facilities.
- Camping Het Spikkerdal near Roermond (section 23). A small-scale campground at a farm house.
Food on the Pieterpad
When you walk the Pieterpad you’ll pass many towns and villages. There’s a supermarket (usually Albert Heijn) almost everywhere. There are also plenty of cafes and restaurants along the trail. Many of these can be found in the Pieterpad guidebooks or via Google Maps.
Make sure to always bring some snacks and enough water with you. You can fill your water bottle in almost every village (there is often a water tap near the church), but in my experience, you can also just ask the people who are living along the route. I myself have asked several people to fill my water bottle (it was really hot when I hiked the trail) and they always filled my bottle.
Please note: There are no places to get food or drinks on section 5 (Rolde – Schoonloo). So bring plenty of food and water when you plan on hiking this section.
Sometimes you will also come across nice surprises along the way, such as the famous “dessert bench” (a picnic table with a large cool box containing desserts) or a hidden tea garden. If you want to eat and drink something at one of these places you need a little bit of cash to pay for it.
Free food, aka trail magic, is not a thing in The Netherlands (I’m sorry about that).
How to get to and from the Pieterpad
Many people use public transport to get to the start or end of a stage. It is easiest to map out the routes via 9292 or Google Maps. Make sure you have an OV chip card (with some money on it) because you can’t buy a single ticket in most places.
Some people walk one section at a time and go and park their bicycles at the endpoint and their car at the start point of a section. This way they can cycle back to their car after hiking a section.
What to bring when hiking the Pieterpad?
Are you a day hiker and do you walk individual sections? Or do you combine several stage in one trip and want to spend the night in a B&B? Or are you bringing a tent with you like I did? There are a few things you should bring with you when you hike the Pieterpad.
If you planning on hiking one section on the Pieterpad, you don’t need much. I would recommend a good day pack from 10 to 20 liters. I myself am a big fan of the Osprey and Deuter backpacks, these are very suitable for day hikes.
Fill your backpack with a (refillable) water bottle ( I would recommend at least one liter), some snacks, a small first aid kit, and a power bank (especially if you use your smartphone to follow the GPS).
In sunny weather, don’t forget to bring sunscreen and a hat. In some places (especially in the woods) bug repellent is also useful. Along the trail, there are quite a few benches, but if you want to sit comfortably, a lightweight sit pad is also nice to take with you.
Need more? Check out this post: What’s in my daypack? Packing list for a day hike
Staying in hotels, B&B’s or “Vrienden op de fiets”
If you spend the night in a B&B, hotel, or with vrienden op de fiets, you will need an extra set of clothes and some toiletries. In that case, bring a slightly larger backpack with you, 30 to 40 liters is perfect.
Try not to take too much with you, after all, you have to carry everything on your back. During my hike on the Pieterpad, I met a man who was carrying a bag just as large as me. Mine was full of camping gear, his bag was filled with clean underwear and socks for every day. That is unnecessary, as you can wash out your clothes easily every few days or so.
If you go camping during your hike on the Pieterpad, you first need a large backpack that fits all your stuff. Do not buy the first best, because a backpack has to fit well, especially if you are going to take a long-distance walk. It is therefore wise to get advice in a specialized store and to try on a number of them. I myself have an Osprey Aura AG 65 that I am very happy with.
If you are going camping, you will of course need more than the items mentioned above, such as:
- a lightweight tent. I used this one from Naturehike when I was hiking the Pieterpad.
- a lightweight sleeping mat, for example Therm-a-Rest Neo Air
- a warm lightweight sleeping bag. In the Netherlands it can sometimes cool down at night, so it’s better to bring one that is too warm than too cold.
- a cooking set. I use the MSR Pocket Rocket in combination with this pot from GSI Outdoors. Both are ultralight and perfect for backpacking.
How much does it cost to hike the Pieterpad?
Hiking the Pieterpad is of course free, but you will have costs for transport, hiking equipment, and overnight stays. The exact amount depends entirely on how you do it. Do you have an extensive lunch during each section and do you sleep in a luxury hotel on the way? Then it is, of course, a lot more expensive than when you stay in campgrounds and cook your own food. I did the latter and spent about €800 for three weeks of hiking the Pieterpad.
Frequently asked questions for the Pieterpad Trail (FAQ)
Additional information sources for the Pieterpad
In addition to the Pieterpad guidebooks, there are also several sources of information with which you can prepare yourself if you are going to walk the Pieterpad. For example, it is always useful to check the official website of the Pieterpad Foundation (in Dutch) for the latest changes in the route and accommodation options.
If you have any questions or if you want to know who else is walking on the Pieterpad, I would like to join the Pieterpad Wandelaars Facebook group. If you are looking for accommodation at a certain stage, you can also join the Pieterpad overnight stays Facebook group. The main language of both of those groups is Dutch, but most Dutch people speak English very well, so they can help you with your questions.
These were all my tips for you if you are going to hike the Pieterpad. I have tried to make a complete guide to this trail Are you missing something or do you have questions about any of the topics I mention in this article? Please leave a message below this article.
Exploring more beautiful places in The Netherlands
The Netherlands is a beautiful country and I feel really lucky to call it my home! You can read a lot about The Netherlands on this website. These articles are also fun to read:
- The gorgeous national parks in The Netherlands
- Hidden gems in The Netherlands: off the beaten track
- 12 beautiful cities in The Netherlands
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This article was published in February 2022. Last update with more tips: September 2023.
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